GPA Growing Business, Capacity and Creating Jobs
Infrastructure investments preparing Port of Savannah for future
Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) Executive Director Curtis J. Foltz told a crowd of more than 1,200 at the annual State of the Port event that the Authority experienced record cargo volumes, significant infrastructure improvements and continued environmental leadership in FY2012.
The Port of Savannah moved 2.98 million TEUs in FY2012 setting another record for container volumes. Additional accomplishments included an increase of 561,038 tons cargo moved, for a record total of 26.5 million tons. Breakbulk cargo saw 15.6 percent growth over FY2011, for an increase of 342,446 tons to 2.53 million tons. In autos and machinery units, Colonel’s Island at the Port of Brunswick led the GPA to greater than 19 percent growth. Georgia Ports moved an all time high of 569,984 roll-on/roll-off units across all terminals in FY2012.
“The confidence our customers have in the GPA’s services has benefited not only the ports, but the state’s job picture as a whole,” said Foltz. “Major port-related announcements in FY2012 included 1,400 future jobs at the new Caterpillar plant in Athens, 900 jobs at Bed, Bath & Beyond’s Pendergrass site and an 800-job expansion at the Big Tex trailer-building facility in Cordele.”
Other large announcements included Lowe’s $125 million, 1.4 million-square-foot regional distribution center in Rome, Ga. The company will hire up to 600 employees by 2016. In addition, Mohawk Industries announced a 500-job expansion at its Summerville factory, recycling plastic containers into carpet fibers.
The Port of Savannah boosted the Savannah economy by supporting an 85.7 percent occupancy rate for local distribution centers in calendar year 2011, out of a total 44.1 million square feet. The port added five new shipping services in FY2012, ending the year with the most weekly services to Asia of any port on the East Coast. Total vessel calls reached a record 2,916 in FY2012.
“Corresponding to our growth in maritime trade, landside investments are expediting truck and train cargo movement,” said Foltz. “The fully-funded Jimmy DeLoach Parkway extension got under way in FY2012. When construction is complete, the $73 million project will provide direct access to the port from Interstates 95”
A new Highway 307 overpass, just outside the port’s main gate was completed in FY2012. The new overpass routes cargo trucks over a six-track expansion at one of Savannah’s two on-terminal rail yards. The 6,000-foot rail extension at the Mason Intermodal Container Transfer Facility is designed to expand capacity, improve efficiencies and reduce costs for customers. The overpass and rail extension will provide even stronger freight handling via road and rail to and from the fastest growing region of the United States.
Other on-terminal improvements included the purchase of four new electric rubber-tired gantry cranes (ERTGs). The container-handling yard cranes will run on an electrical bus bar system, relying on diesel power only to move between container rows. In this way, the ERTGs will reduce their diesel consumption by at least 70 percent, saving energy costs and reducing noise and air pollution.
Twenty new refrigerated container racks were added in FY2012, for a total of 64 racks used to support poultry and other chilled produce exports. Powering more than 1,500 containers at a time, the electrified racks avoid the use of 3.4 million gallons of diesel each year.
The GPA also installed new container yard light fixtures that reduce light pollution and a lighting control system that cuts energy consumption by 30 percent.
The Port of Savannah won a federal grant to retrofit 11 locomotives with automatic engine stop-start devices that reduce idling and will cut an estimated 50,000 gallons of diesel consumption and nearly 18 tons of emissions each year.
The biggest news of the year, however, involved the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (SHEP). After a 15-year study, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found the project to be environmentally and economically sound. For every dollar spent on the expansion, 5.5 dollars will be returned in benefits to the nation, the Corps’ study showed. Deepening the harbor to 47 feet will provide $174 million in annual net benefits to the U.S. economy. Georgia has committed $181.1 million in state bonds to SHEP. Final approvals are expected by this November.
“Since FY2002, the Port of Savannah has marked a 10.6 percent compound annual growth rate, more than twice that of any other East Coast port,” said GPA Board Chairman Robert Jepson. “Savannah leads the Southeast in containerized cargo, and the harbor deepening will ensure its premier status in moving U.S. exports to the global marketplace.”